Committee appointed for search to replace Ransdell

Emma Collins

The committee tasked with the search for WKU’s 10th president has been set.

On Friday, Feb. 12, the Board of Regents met to discuss the formation of a Presidential Search Committee and to establish the members and conditions of the search.

The seven-member committee is tasked with finding candidates the board can vote on to decide President Gary Ransdell’s replacement when he retires on June 30, 2017. Philip Bale, a member of the board, was unanimously appointed chairman of the search committee and will serve as the committee’s official spokesman.


The search committee appointees were Bale, Barbara Burch, Cynthia Harris, Julie Hinson, James G. Meyer, Tamela Smith and Jay Todd Richey.

According to Frederick Higdon, the chairman of the Board of Regents, the number of committee members will be fluid with additions allowed throughout the process as needed.

Higdon’s proposed list of committee members was unanimously accepted by the nine regents present at the meeting. Of the present members only one, John Ridley, expressed reservations about the list.

“We certainly want [the members’] input, but I do think that there are three members in this that specifically have a vested interest in benefits from the university,” Ridley said, referring to members who stand to receive certain benefits based on who is chosen as president.

Despite his concerns, Ridley still voted to adopt the proposed member list.

The committee’s first step will be to select a search firm to help facilitate the presidential search.

Several search firms, which are professional recruiting companies hired by large businesses to find new employees for key positions, will be proposed to the board no later than March 2.

Both Higdon and Bale believe the selection of the right search firm is extremely important.

“What I have read, you know, your chances of success in finding the right person are enhanced immeasurably by having the right search firm,” Bale said.

The firm will be selected by the board and, in conjunction with the search committee, begin the process of finding candidates for the position of president.

Higdon believes WKU is at an opportune moment to receive applications from extremely competitive individuals.

“Gary Ransdell has set the bar high for his successor,” Higdon said. “The board and the WKU family can take comfort that, as we move forward in the presidential search process over the next 17 months, the university is positioned and immeasurably attractive to illicit the very best of the best in candidates.”

In addition to finding a search firm, the search committee and board must also create a presidential position profile that includes desirable qualities considered an asset to the university. After selecting several candidates, the committee will narrow the list to between three and five finalists. It will then present the list to the Board of Regents.

The board has requested that finalists be selected by Dec. 31 so that a president can be selected before March 1, 2017.

According to Bale, the search for a new president, which Ransdell will not participate in, is of the utmost importance to maintain WKU’s status as a leader in postsecondary education.

“Other than very personal matters of family, the decision of selecting a new president for this great university may well be the most important decision of our individual lives,” Bale said during the meeting.

This process is expected to last for about 17 months, and members will be under strict confidentiality requirements. All members of the committee as well as the board will be required to sign a Code of Conduct and Confidentiality Agreement promising to refrain from discussing any of the selection proceedings with members not involved in the search. Violation of the agreement will result in removal from the search process.

Jay Todd Richey, the student regent, suggested that there be “as much student input as democratically possible.”

He proposed a series of open forums where students would be allowed to ask candidates questions and express their opinions regarding each candidate.

According to Bale, future actions during the search process will include a discussion of the budget and a president’s compensation package. However, the main focus right now is to begin the search process and find candidates for a search form.

“May we now commence this journey with the noblest of intention, integrity and collegiality,” Bale said during the meeting. “The Western Kentucky University family expects and deserves nothing less.”